Dilsey As Support For the Family

July 11, 2019 by Essay Writer

In The Sound and the Fury, the fated Compson family is a portrayal of both the declining old South and the new South that rose demonically out of its ruins. Through the Compsons, Faulkner personifies at once the mournful self-pity of a fallen gentry, and in Jason, the embittered rage and resentment of those who come after the fall. Throughout the novel, Dilsey is the one quiet fortitude in this irredeemably tragic and fallen family.One of the first indications of Dilsey’s strength in the Compson house is attested to by the fact that she can tell time from the warped clock that hangs in the kitchen. This clock and its skewed rendering corresponds with the Compsons’ own inability to reconcile themselves to any rational concept of time. Quentin is long tortured and eventually driven to suicide by his morbid nostalgia; “… time is [Quentin’s] misfortune…”(97). Jason’s resentment of the past has driven him to his maniacal obsession with hoarding money, in preparation for an abstract future that will never, can never become a reality. Dilsey’s ability to make sense of the broken clock reveals that she has made a sense of time eternal, a sense that allows her to live free from the grip of the past and the anticipation of the future. Through her responsibility for the Compson family, and the fact that she is the sole person with whom this responsibility lies, she is inextricably bound to the present– to project onto Dilsey a past or future seems inappropriate and irrelevant. Dilsey’s present however is not Benjy’s present, comprised simply of one moment to the next; through living the present, Dilsey transcends it.That Dilsey is steadfastly engaged in a timeless present makes her the “sworn enemy”(297) of Jason; she is the one human being he fears and respects. In the constant war between Jason and the girl Quentin, Dilsey pits herself tirelessly and thanklessly against Jason and his demonic cruelty. Quentin is for Jason an unbearable symbol of the past that he tries so forcefully to negate, and for the reader the consummate symbol of the decadence of the fallen South. She is therefore equally as resentful and fearful of the present, and violently pushes the protective Dilsey away, calling her “damn old nigger”(168). In pitting herself against Jason however, Dilsey protects more than Quentin; she protects the fragile vestige of the Compson family to which she remains eternally loyal. The opening of the final chapter is a portrait of Dilsey, a woman weakened and eroded by long hardship and burden, and yet ultimately “indomitable”(236). As Easter Sunday wears on, the reader is allowed a perception of Dilsey that is straight from Faulkner, unmuddied by the parsimonious judgments of the other characters. The source of her strength is revealed in the simplicity and totality of her uncontrived faith. When Dilsey takes Luster, Frony, and Benjy to the “darkies’… special Easter service”(248), she is completely un-self-conscious in her worship. She cries openly on the way home, despite her daughter’s worries about “passin white folks soon”(264). Her revealed tenderness toward Benjy in this chapter is moving. Understanding his helpless suffering, she tries to hush his bellowing that is described as “just sound”(255). In reference to the title of the novel, the silence that Dilsey tenderly urges is profound; if “… life… is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury…” then Dilsey beckons Benjy to a peace — ultimate and eternal. Faulkner gives the reader a final testimony to the eternal quality of Dilsey’s strength in her section of the appendix, that comes after the sections devoted to the other blacks of the novel. Simply writing “they endured”(302), Faulkner affirms that Dilsey has led her family to salvation, to stand long after the fall of the Compsons. At the end of the novel, Dilsey returns home: “… the fire had died down. There was no sound in the house… there was no sound anywhere.”(265). Dilsey outlasts “the sound and the fury” of the fatally self-centered Compsons, to remain long after them, indomitable and knowing. In bitter irony it is Dilsey who, in Faulknerian terms, not only endures, but prevails.

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